Over the years, you built your small business on step at a time. Your hired more staff to sell and service your clients, then you added an office manager and/or an accounting manager. With each hire you expected to get “freed up” to act like an owner, not an employee.
Yet you are “crazy busy” every day– getting sales, monitoring if work is done, leading improvement projects, fighting fires, and otherwise tending to the daily work in your business.
What could be the cause? If you have 10 or more people on staff, you are likely missing a “level” of management.
You have level 1- individual workers, and you (level 4)- expecting to lead well-designed and highly functional systems run by others.
You might even have level 2- a “supervisor” who monitors daily work of direct reports (perhaps informally and tactically), and is concerned with the next week or month.
But if you want to plan 1-5 years out and make changes that will improve your people, process and profits, you have to get out of the “daily supervision” game.
You need a deputy.
Here is a list of 9 ways your deputy (general manager) can positively impact your organization:
- Watch the store– develop and implement dashboards with key business results, review regularly and alert you to any “exceptions” so you know things are on track and there are no surprises
- Process improvement – identify trends in your hassles, bottlenecks and other issues, research to find route cause and suggest solutions, then implement the solution
- Build your team– Identify new roles or more people before your delivery suffers. Recruit, screen, onboard and train new staff that are Ideal Candidates, build a virtual bench of pre-qualified candidates before a position opens up
- Coach the team– schedule, assign and coordinate work, monitor performance and attitude, give feedback, train and develop people for the best job fit and opportunities, engage the team to retain A players.
- Client experience building– handle escalation of client issues, routine relationship building, periodic follow up to uncover unreported issues and identify opportunities
- Get stuff done– Take your brilliant ideas for sales, marketing, process improvement, customer service and work with you to implement them
- Get Strategic – Provide another viewpoint and involvement input in annual goal setting, then cascade goals down to every person, communicate and implement via individual dashboards and team coaching conversations.
- “Hold down the fort” so you can have dinner with your family and take several two-week vacations (almost worry free)
- Open up your schedule– so you can focus on thinking and planning, provide leadership and direction, building strategic relationships, and monitoring from a dashboard (instead of an avalanche of data)
Basically a deputy lets you guide the process while they drive the business.
Most owners wait far too long to get a deputy- a general / operations manager. The concerns are the usual- effort (how can I find and train a good one) and cost (how will I pay for him or her?).
Take a quick count- how many of these are happening now in your business?
What impact would these activities bring to your business if they were in place?
- Would it tighten up your sales process to win more business and increase revenue?
- Would it increase customer satisfaction leading to more sales and referrals?
- Would it provide the systems for reducing your costs based on higher efficiency?
If you increase quantity and value of each sale 5%, and reduce costs 5% this can double your profit.
Can a deputy do this for you?
Last week I had very similar conversations with general managers at two very different businesses.
They both had teams that seemed to be less focused, productive and efficient the more time they had.
One is a seasonal business where everyone works overtime for 4 months and then have very little to do during the off-season. Yet despite the “extra” time, the wish list of improvement projects never seems to be completed.
The other business sells short-term consulting solutions to clients, so they are “all hands on deck” for 1-2 months and then may only have smaller tasks to fill in between the big installations. Yet during a slower schedule, clients wait a bit too long for response to their smaller requests.
You may see this in your own business, or in your own week. I know that I sometimes don’t have a large list of “done” items when I have a whole day to work on them, but can check off 1-2 proactive items in a few hours between client meetings.
The cause: What you are witnessing is an actual documented sociological principle I learned in college:
“Work expands to fill the time.”
The solution: plan, develop work habits, and track for accountability
- make a list of what needs to be accomplished – whiteboard on the wall or online tool such as asana.com
- plan the week with your big 3 (projects, not just ongoing work)
- begin each day tackling the next priority item
- end each day re-prioritizing what to focus on the next day
- review regularly, track progress and expect results
- remember that deadlines are motivational– pre-schedule a time to review a specific outcome
These steps will improve your own focus on activities that achieve results.
They also work well to focus your team members, build their work habits and hold them accountable.
The key is planning with progress reports in a weekly coaching conversation.
Perhaps take this Friday afternoon to plan out a few items on your “wish list” and then assign one 90 minute task to each day next week to make progress on the first one.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Most small business owners wear many hats—service provider, marketer, salesperson, accountant, customer service, and for your team – trainer, project manager and coach.
But the more the business depends on you, the more you are limiting it’s potential .. you can’t do it all well.
In fact, only 8% of businesses grow to over $5 million in revenue.. something happens to most firms and they plateau around the $1-2 million mark.
Actually, not just one thing…
There are 7 main roadblocks to achieving your business potential— a lack of systems in 7 key areas.
- If your firm lacks these 7 systems, it creates a bottleneck that flattens sales, prevents great customer experiences, and reduces profits.
- Once you get the key elements right, you can grow smoothly and consistently, with a business on “auto-pilot.”
Remember Steven Covey’s habit “Begin with the end in mind”?
There are four main plans to guide your activities and decisions to create the business you desire:
Strategic plan: It is crucial to provide a roadmap to guide your major decisions.
Budget: An annual budget is a planning document, report card, and decision tool.
People Plan: This plan outlines your current and future people roles— and forecasts what additions and changes to roles are needed to support sales growth and new business lines.
It also outlines individual’s work with organization goals (see People and Process below).
Owners plan: Owners, just like every team member, should be in a role that maximizes their strengths. Many owners continue to be the CEO- the Center of Everything Officer. This creates a huge roadblock for growing the business as the owner becomes overworked and overwhelmed.
An owner’s plan considers their current and future desired involvement, and outlines a plan to transition responsibilities to key people over time.
2. Sales plan
Most businesses have a reactive approach to sales—they do a bit of advertising or hire a sales person and then respond to the leads that come in.
Often the owner is heavily involved in all or part of this process. It is typical for a busy owner to be slow to respond to inquiries and provide proposals, and leads can be lost quickly without a tracking system.
There are several roadblocks in such an informal process.
Not only are you losing new sales that you already proposed, but you are also not pursuing qualified ideal prospects to have a consistent flow of new sales opportunities. A third sales area often overlooked is repeat business from current or prior customers—most organizations don’t have a solid process to keep in touch and offer additional services.
If you want to find, attract and cultivate leads into new and repeat customers, the solution is to have a consistent optimized sales process plan that is semi-automated.
Define your process
We all have our own way of doing things.
While that is just fine in our personal lives, a business needs to ensure consistency and quality of the product and service we deliver to our customer.
This roadblock is the lack of three little letters: SOP—Standard Operating Procedures.
Maybe you consider this super-boring, but this is the foundation of growing and scaling your business with few fires and chaos, not more. If you throw gasoline (more sales) on a fire (inconsistent work) you have an explosion.
If you want to grow smoothly, you need SOP’s.
SOP: Two key elements to a streamlined and consistent process are 1) to identify key tasks and results in standard operating procedures – SOP, 2) continually refine those SOP and implement projects to improve your process and delight your customer.
Employee involvement: To best way to process improvement ideas is to actively involve your employees in the process—they are closest to the customer and are more likely to see ways to do things faster, better, and cheaper.
Business success is about delivering an exceptional customer experience– and systems allow you to do this easily as you grow.
Your standard operating procedures are enhanced further by creating job responsibility profiles with key performance indicators (KPI) for each employee.
When everyone is clear about their responsibility, how it supports business goals, and how they will be measured, they perform better and are more engaged with their work.
One optimal practice is to create a firm-wide dashboard of key metrics, and then “cascade” the goals and metrics to the specific people responsible. These “report cards” show when company and individual results are on target, allow for quick adjustment in areas that need attention, and ensure focus on the main items to achieve this year’s goals.
Fabulous Team A Players
Even with perfectly optimized systems and all the pretty dashboards with your key metrics, you won’t grow with a fabulous team of People, who work together to achieve business goals.
A Players: There is a simple measure to know if you have this—do you have 100% “A-players” in every role?
Virtual bench: When you have qualified candidates on a “virtual bench” (ready to hire as business grows), this allows you to plug in the team you need when you need it, rather than overwhelming your staff and disappointing customers as you reactively scramble to find more teammates.
What is your ikigai?
As the owner, you are both the key to your success AND your biggest roadblock.
If you want your business to run without your daily involvement, you need to:
- Build a trusted management team to optimize the business
- Delegate to handle the daily operations (no meddling)
- Hold them accountable via the goals and dashboards tied to strategy
- Focus your efforts on your genius—what you love to do, what provides the greatest long term value for the business
A lack of profits is a huge roadblock to your business success. Low cash flow causes you to make decisions out of scarcity— cheaper labor, old broken equipment, taking on low margin jobs, not investing in process improvement, and working yourself harder.
When you have the Right Plan, Process and People, the Profits start flowing (I call this the 5 P’s model).
This upward spiral of success finally provides you the security, freedom and funds to step out of the daily “running” of the business, and let you focus on your ideal role and ideal week (and ideal life).
Download the Guide and discover Which Roadblocks are Limiting Your Small Business.
Article by Diana Southall
About the author: Diana Southall is the creator of the People Plan. She helps owners who want to grow their small business but are too personally involved, and who want to learn how to “run a business” and build a trusted team to handle the day to day.
Most small business owners want two things from their business- a reasonable Profit for all their hard work, and the freedom to enjoy their Personal life (both in the business and outside it).
However, they often neglect the 3 other P’s that will create the Profit and Personal life they want.
To explain this concept, I created a formula:
Plan + Process + People = Profits —> your Personal life
You need to have all 3 P’s in this order:
- Planning— What are the Right Things? [the What]
- Process— What does Done Right look like? [the How]
- People — Do we have the Right People? [the Who]
Without Planning, people don’t know how what they do impacts your goals, so they are busy but not focused.
Without effective Process, you will have wasted effort, headaches and won’t deliver on your promises to customers.
Without the right People, you will be busy dealing with fires and drama, and trapped in daily effort to “manage” your people and customers.
—> You feel overworked, overwhelmed by your wish list of business improvement projects, and you feel guilty working long days instead of spending time with your friends and family.
Once you put the 3 P’s in place at your organization, you can transform into an organization with:
A Plan: when your staff know the “plan” and understand how they impact organizational goals, they work together as a purpose-driven team to improve and grow the business by delighting your customers.
Clear Process: when activities are standardized, clear roles and responsibilities are outlined, and key results are tracked to make informed decisions, this provides “autopilot” systems to run smoothly and scale easily.
Right People: when you have managers who build and coach a team of A-Players, you trust them to run the business and make decisions as you would.
This leads to your ultimate goal as a business owner:
- The level of Profit (financial security) you desire, and
- The Personal work-life balance you want … the freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it.
Discover Which Plan, People and Process elements are Roadblocks in Your Small Business
Take our 3 minute quiz to find out how your firm compares to high-growth and high-profit firms.
Article by Diana Southall
About the author: Diana Southall is the creator of the People Plan. She helps companies that are missing out on opportunities because the owner is personally involved in every sale or client.
As another calendar year winds down, many organizations are focused on a strong finish to this year and planning for the next one.
Typically this centers on the financial side of the business.
As you do your year-end de-briefing, why don’t you also ask yourself “What did I enjoy this year? Did I make the impact I expected?”
Certainly we are in business for financial rewards, but I suspect you also want the rewards of feeling accomplished, fun, freedom and flexibility.
Even the business owner deserves to have a role they love, a sense of accomplishment and “work life” balance (not a J.O.B.)
So as you plan for your business next year, why not re-imagine your role?
For myself, I outlined a weekly action plan to create by “best year ever.”
Here is the outline, and the next 5 weeks– if you would like to join me and re-define your role next year.
My 30 day plan for my (your) best year ever:
- Week 1- identify your *“ikigai” – the genius that you bring to the world and that you love to do [see ikigai image above]
- Week 2 –write up your current “job description” and then create your ideal job profile
- Week 3—highlight your delegation wish list — and who you can give to now or train for the future
- Week 4- meet with those “delegatees” and share your ideas for these new duties, if they agree and commit
- Week 5 – develop quarterly training action plans for the people with delegated items (to prevent your excuses above to keep these activities)
- Week 6 and beyond— focus and maximize your time- schedule your important work first, build the habits and track your progress, implement weekly huddles and quarterly action plan meetings
There are several essential planning documents to systematically craft, communicate and implement a roadmap and key results:
- One-page strategic plan (5 year)
- Annual budget and with annual goals and 3-4 key projects (rocks)
- Monthly company dashboard
- Sales plan and process
These links are for resources from several groups that work with high growth organizations.
Documents & Instructions
How to Set An Annual Budget for Your Business, Inc Magazine
How to Setup a Budget for Your Business, SCORE
Five Steps to Create your One-Page Strategic Plan, Entrepreneur Magazine
To your People success,
-Diana Southall, People Coach and creator of the People Plan™
Once you have an organization strategy and plan, you can get everyone on the team working to achieve it.
If you are ready to create your own People Plan, learn more about our Toolkit resources.